IET Meetup: Appleton Lecture – AI and Human Digitization


The first address in this year’s Appleton lecture was given by Dr Sarah Atkinson. She gave a historical view of “fake news” created by manipulation of media, starting with the Cottingley fairies. This set the scene for Dr Hao Li’s excellent presentation of his research into animation of people, initially through long-running processes for film effects, but latterly in real-time for Animoji on the iPhone X.
Dr Hao Li - Animoji Mastermind
There are plenty of applications for the techniques, such as video conferencing, social media and even films. However, the common theme was that, as these technologies become mainstream, we should no longer assume that video evidence of a speaker saying something is actual real.

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Rambling: Loweswater, Lake District

Lake District
This is a short, low-level walk around Loweswater, which is both a lake and the name of a small village. It’s also the first walk in the Pathfinder Guide. On the day that my family and I hiked around the lake, The Loweswater Show was coincidentally being held in fields nearby – making it quite a challenge to squeeze the car around the horse boxes leaving the show along the narrow country lanes. There is parking is lay-bys along the Northern side of the lake.

The route for the walk was quite easy to follow, being largely around the lake. There are some lovely sections on the North side of the lake where the path is directly adjacent to the water. On the South side, much of the route is through woodland, although there is a stony beach with several ropes suspended from the trees – we caught a sheepish teenager enjoying a swing on those before he felt self-conscious.

The walked was booked at 4 miles.
LoweswaterLoweswater from Holme WoodLoweswater - South side

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Book Review: The Kill List, Frederick Forsyth

This book follows a similar formula to The Afghan, by the same author. There’s a terrorist threat to the western world- extremists brainwashed by a radical cleric are murdering prominent public figures. A former US marine (codenamed The Tracker) must track down the preacher (codenamed The Preacher) who only posts online – and eliminate him. The Tracker recruits a young, supremely talented hacker to help locate the source of the inflammatory material – he is codenamed Ariel (disappointingly, not The Hacker!)

The constraints put in place by politicians make The Tracker’s job harder – even having located The Preacher, he cannot order a drone strike because it is a built up area. So begins an elaborate plot to bring The Preacher out of his ‘fortress’ into a remote area, where he can be attacked. First, he is discredited in the eyes of his followers, by hacking his website and posting a fake message recanting his previous statements. Second, he is informed by a trusted friend (actually Ariel, aka The Hacker) that a local warlord has kidnapped a westerner and is prepared to sell – executing the man would re-instate his fearsome reputation. Having set the bait, the tracker must recruit a lethal army unit to seek and destroy The Preacher at his meeting with the warlord.
Four stars

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Rambling: Buttermere, Lake District

Lake DistrictHaving met up with family during our Lake District holiday, we went for a low-level walk around Buttermere. Although the drive from Keswick to Buttermere village over the Honister Pass can be hair-raising, it was worth it to enjoy an atmospheric walk around this popular lake.

The route around Buttermere is pretty clear, and is half of a walk outlined in the Pathfinder Guide. There is a more challenging walk starting from here, to include Red Pike, High Stile and Haystacks – terrific views from the tops. There are refreshments in several pubs in the village, we chose the Sykes Farm cafe, which was excellent.

The walk was booked at 4.5 miles and my phone recorded just 9 floors climbed.

Buttermere, Lake District

View of Haystacks from Buttermere

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Rambling: Borrowdale, Lake District

Lake District
This is a beautiful, low-level walk from the Pathfinder Guide. Although it doesn’t circle a lake or climb any of the famous fells, the route follows the River Derwent and provides spectacular views down the valley. We walked the route in reverse, from Grange to Seatoller. Grange benefits from a lovely cafe as well as tea rooms – sadly, the cafe at Seatoller was shut when we arrived! ┬áThe route was quite easy to follow, except for the start of the footpath back from Seatoller – after following the road out of the village and up the hill, the directions are to take the footpath to climb steeply up the side of the valley. ┬áThe footpath and gate were obscured by bracken, so only visible when almost on top of them!

The route was booked at 7 miles and my phone recorded 18000 steps and 45 floors climbed that day.

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Book Review: The General’s Daughter, Nelson DeMille

It’s always a pleasure to find a Nelson DeMille in the charity bookshop, and this one was excellent. The main characters are Paul Brenner and Cynthia Sunhill, who are military investigators (the former for homicide, the latter for rape). Their back-story includes an affair in Zurich when they last met and the love/hate relationship resulting from that continues throughout the book.

There are many serious issues raised by this book (such as the role of women in the army and the cover-up of crime in order to avoid bringing the army into disrepute). The author gives Paul Brenner most of the narrative, though, and he is arguably not a character to investigate those bigger issues. His own concern is to find the guilty party and extricate himself and his career from the scene. As ever with books by DeMille, Brenner’s sense of humour and character have much in common with his regular hero, John Corey.

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Book Review: Burning Angels, Bear Grylls

This is a Will Jaeger thriller, in which he battles to prevent the release of a deadly toxin that threatens global calamity, as well as continuing a long search to find his kidnapped wife and son. I haven’t read the first book in this series (Ghost Flight), but the story held together pretty well all the same.

The book had some exciting passages and was an enjoyable read, particularly the battles in the depths of the jungle and the heroics of Jaeger and his team – all areas where Grylls brings his expertise from the SAS to bear. Unfortunately, the climax to the story fell pretty flat for me. On the one hand, I’m willing to believe that a handful of special forces operatives can win a gun fight against a small army of mercenaries (!). On the other, I can’t believe that a source of immunity against a plague can be isolated from a blood specimen, turned into a vaccine, and mass-produced at world scale in just a small number of days/weeks. That incredible feat of bio-engineering certainly deserves more than seven lines in the epilogue (and that’s in a large font)!
Three stars

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